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Dar ko bhagao Bhagey!

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By Swaraj Mishra*

It is never easy to throw away a secure and highly respected job like IAS mid-career and join electoral politics. If one is not from a very well to do background, there can be so many genuine apprehensions and concerns. An Odisha cadre 1963 batch IAS officer, Bhagey Gobardhan was faced with such dilemma in the 80s. But when he met Biju babu, the towering political personality of his time, his doubts vanished. ‘Throw away that fear dear Bhagey’, he had said, ‘your future will be in your own hands’.

Born on 31st October 1934 in a tribal family, Gobardhan had his early education in Baripada and Katak. After moving over to Kolkata for higher education he served as an Engineer and lecturer for 3 years before getting selected as an IAS officer. He served in various important positions under government of Odisha. But he was not satisfied. He was thinking of leaving the job to dedicate his life to the service of the poor tribals of his region. It was at that time he had a serious discussion with Biju Patnaik and after listening to his encouraging words, he had never looked back.
He left his job on 1st November 1984 and joined active politics. But that was a crucial moment in Indian political history. Mrs. Indira Gandhi was assassinated on 31st October, barely a day before and there was a sympathy wave in favour of the Congress party sweeping the country. Bhagey Gobardhan fought his maiden electoral battle for Mayurbhanj Lok Sabha seat in December 1984 and predictably faced defeat in the hands of Siddhalal Murmu of Congress Party by a margin of more than 70 thousand votes.
That was a rude shock for someone who had just left a lucrative job to start a career in politics. But Gobardhan didn’t lose heart. He contested for Bahalada seat in the Assembly elections in March 1985 in Janata Dal ticket once again and this time he came out victorious defeating  his nearest congress rival, Laxman Majhi in spite of a state wide wave in favour of Congress. J B Patnaik formed a Congress government in the state and Gobardhan had to sit in the opposition, trying his level best to do something noticeable for his constituency and Mayurbhanj region.
His efforts stood him in good stead when he defeated Saraswati Hembram, a prominent Congress leader and  ex minister of JB Patnaik ministry in 1989 Lok Sabha elections  from Mayurbhanj by a margin of more than 22 thousand votes. He went on to become Minister of State, Planning and Coordination in V.P.Singh’s government at the centre from 21st April 1990 to 10th November 1990 and Minister of State, HRD in Chandrasekhar’s ministry from 21st November 1990 to 20th February 1991. He again won the Mayurbhanj Lok Sabha seat in 1991, this time on Congress ticket, and was in office till he breathed his last on 31st July 1991.
Bhagey Gobardhan had played a very crucial role in Mayurbhanj politics till his death. In his brief but eventful political career he has won 1 Assembly and 2 Parliament elections from Mayurbhanj region and has dedicated his life to the cause of welfare and development of Tribals.
A successful bureaucrat, he had been equally successful in his political career as well and had shaped his destiny in his own hands.
The author is a columnist.